WASHINGTON, DC -- Nearly
60,000 marijuana offenders are incarcerated in the United States at any
given time, according to a study published in the Federation of American
Scientists' "Drug Policy Analysis Bulletin." More than a quarter
of marijuana offenders are incarcerated for personal possession, with no
other drugs involved in the offense.
The total cost to taxpayers
of marijuana-related incarceration exceeds $1.2 billion per year, according
to the study. "The latest figures cast serious doubt on the argument
that marijuana incarceration costs are low enough to be ignored," the study
The study, "Marijuana Arrests
and Incarceration in the United States," was undertaken for the FAS journal
by Chuck Thomas, Director of Communications at the Marijuana Policy Project.
Based on raw data recently obtained from the federal Bureau of Justice
Statistics, the estimated number of incarcerated marijuana offenders is
probably the most precise figure ever calculated.
The study also found that
there were more than 700,000 marijuana arrests in the United States in
1997, according to the most recent data available from the FBI, 87% for
personal possession of marijuana, rather than sale or manufacture.
According to the new study:
At any one time, 59,300 prisoners
charged with or convicted of violating marijuana laws are behind bars.
(Because many serve less than a year, the total number who pass through
the prison system each year, while difficult to estimate, is even greater.)
Of the people incarcerated in
federal and state prisons and in local jails, 37,500 were charged with
marijuana offenses only, and an additional 21,800 were charged with both
marijuana offenses and other controlled substances offenses.
Of the marijuana-only offenders,
15,400 are incarcerated for possession, not trafficking.
-- END --
"Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey
and other drug warriors argue that people do not really get arrested or
incarcerated for minor marijuana offenses," said Thomas. "This study
proves them wrong. The drug war is very much about sending small-time,
non-violent marijuana offenders to jail."
Issue #95, 6/18/99
Reformers Slandered, Harassed and Threatened at House Subcommittee Hearings on Legalization | Juvenile Justice Bill Expected to Pass with Worst Provisions Intact | Swiss Vote Again to Continue Heroin Experiment | Palliative or Repressive? Conservative-Sponsored Legislation Impacts on Pain, Suicide and Drug Policy Debates | Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Moves to House Floor | Geraldo Rivera Drug War Report This Weekend (6/20) | Newsbriefs | RESOURCES: Kids and Drug Education, Drug Control Strategies, Medical Marijuana Report, Hemp Video | New Research Finds Marijuana Offenders Crowding Nation's Prisons and Jails | Canadian Senator Urges Drug Policy Review, Endorses Legalization of Marijuana, Soft Drugs | Errata on Breyer Appointment | Editorial: US House of Repression
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